The 3Rs of Animal Research

The 3Rs philosophy is the guiding principle for the Animal Welfare Program at Altasciences.

When the concept of the 3Rs was first developed in the 1950s, the idea was to replace sentient animals with less sentient ones; current technology includes replacing animals with computer models, lab grown cultures, and other non-living models. The North American 3Rs Collaborative1 defines partial or relative replacement as “replacing animals with animals that are not considered capable of experiencing pain/distress such as invertebrates like Drosophila, nematode worms, and social amoebae, and immature forms of vertebrates.”


Refinement refers to methods that minimize pain, suffering, and distress of research animals, as well as improving their welfare with animal housing and husbandry. Some examples include providing housing that allows for species-specific behaviors, modifying handling methods, and training animals to cooperate with handling.


Reduction refers to methods that minimize the numbers of animals required per experiment or study designs to achieve robust results. Maximizing the amount of data gathered per animal in an experiment, and sharing data among groups also contribute to reduction, as different groups can analyze the same date for their respective needs.

How does Altasciences Advance Animal Welfare?

animal welfare rodentAt Altasciences, the welfare of the research animals in our care is of the utmost importance, in everything we do… and all decisions we make. We have fully embraced the 3Rs philosophy, and gone above and beyond to ensure the physical and emotional health of our animals. 

Upon hire and renewed annually, every employee signs a C.A.R.E. contract, committing to animal welfare principles. Our staff, at all levels, are constantly training and learning, bringing new innovations to evolve our Program to its highest potential. For example, socialized housing (including European housing, where applicable) is the default for all our animals, and over 90% of our non-human primates are socially housed. Our scientists have developed a “snuggle wrap” restraint method to minimize stress during procedures with juvenile non-human primates, and we have special non-restraining procedure cages for larger primates. 

The 3Rs (replacement, reduction, and refinement) are a staple of animal research, and Altasciences is proud to be a Gold Sponsor of the North American 3Rs Collaborative.


For more details on the Animal Welfare Program specifics and how we foster an environment of wellbeing and care, please consult the resources below:

Podcast with Dr. Christina Cruzen, Chief Animal Welfare Officer, and Shayna Halverson, Manager, Quality Assurance

Feel the Love, our Animal Welfare Video

Animal Welfare Fact Sheet 


1.    North American 3Rs Collaborative. The 3Rs. accessed March 24, 2021.